On Friday January 27th, ESI and Conservation International joined up to host ESI’s second annual Hackathon for Climate Change. About 50 people devoted a full day to combating critical climate change issues by inventing nature-based solutions. Attendees included a mix of MIT faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students, alumni, scientists from Conservation International, and several community members.

The event began with rapid-fire idea generation. Armed with sticky notes and pens, participants noted down the climate issues of most concern to them as well as potential solutions. After sticking the notes on Samberg’s floor-to-ceiling windows, everyone gathered to ponder the proposed ideas. Groups then formed around various topics, discussing everything from carbon dioxide sequestration, to cities and infrastructure, to food and agriculture. The topics became more and more specific and before noon there were six explicit and distinct project ideas for combatting climate change. The teams spent the rest of the day in a development session, compiling their research and ingenuity into a final product presented to the other teams and members of the MIT community.

At the end of the day, the entire group voted, and three out of the six teams were presented with awards. The idea with the Most Potential for Impact was the Environmental Impact Label, a QR code revealing the emissions, health impacts, and waste implications of a specific product. The Most Novel Idea was the Sustainable Transportation Community Action Kit, a project to use big data and psychometrics to generate personalized advertisements for efficient and green transportation. The Best Presentation award was given to CALC (Climate Agricultural Lab Cooperatives). Kicking off their lively presentation with the question “Who likes to eat?!” this group came up with a digital platform by which farmers from villages could form cooperatives and learn sustainable farming techniques. Members of the award-winning teams received a copy of the widely acclaimed book The Narrow Edge: A Tiny Bird, an Ancient Crab, and an Epic Journey by ESI’s visiting scholar, Deborah Cramer.

The other participants also came up with quite inventive solutions. The Communities for Climate Practice team devised a social network connecting communities looking to improve a certain climate practice with an expert in that field, allowing for a smooth transition period. The Personal Sustainability Tracker team conceptualized a Fitbit-like device that could be used to keep record of a person’s carbon emissions, waste, and water usage and make users more aware of the environmental impact of their daily life. In order to prevent the effects of climate change such as floods in local communities, the final team ClimAdapt developed a tool to help communities comprehend climate data about their area and formulate approaches towards adaptation.

The teams collaborated on a wide range of issues and impressed everyone with the creativity and thoughtfulness of proposed solutions. ESI and CI are thankful to all who attended and made the event a success! Pictures can be found on our Facebook page at facebook.com/mitesi.

contributed by Minerva Teli, ESI Programs Intern